I’ve lost count of the amount of otherwise healthy people who come to my classes complaining about sore necks and backs. Pretty much without exception, they tell me the same story. (You know who you are!)
You spend hours slouching over your computer, endlessly tapping away. On occasion, you go all day long without actually leaving your seat. When the phone rings, you lean across the desk and then prop it between your ear and your shoulder. The more you get absorbed in your work, the closer your face gets to the screen. Your shoulders and neck are straining to keep your head up. The stress is relentless. You chest keeps tightening up. And so it goes. Forty hours a week? Fifty? More?
HOW TO SET UP YOUR WORKSPACE
You may not be able to (or want to for that matter) do much about your deskbound job. But you can definitely set yourself up in a much healthier way than what I just described above.
Your seat should be low enough so that you can place your feet flat on the ground. At the same time, it needs to be high enough so that your knees are at a hip level or slightly below. A gym ball is an amazing option as it keeps your core engaged and spine tall at the same time. If you can’t stay on a gym ball all day long, why not try it for an hour a day to begin with and see how it goes.
This one is tricky because most of us do not have the luxury of a height-adjustable desktop. Still, you can work around it. Ideally, when you sit up nice and tall with your elbows close to your body and bent at 90 degrees, your forearms should rest on top of your desk. Unfortunately, most worktops are way too high. If you can’t adjust the height of the table or desk, maybe you have a height-adjustable chair? If so, then raise your chair and support your feet with a few magazine or books... Get creative!
MOUSE + KEYBOARD.
Keep your keyboard by the edge of the desk so that you don’t need to stretch your arms out in order to type. The same goes for the mouse. Keep it close to the edge of your desk so that you can easily reach and operate it without having to extend your elbow away from your body. I got a great practical tip on this once from an office health specialist. She told me to use a coloured tape to define a boundary on the desk that the mouse is not allowed to leave, under any circumstances. Nothing beats a visual reminder! Before you know it, keeping your mouse in the ‘safe zone’ becomes second nature.
When sitting nice and tall by your (by now well adjusted) desk, the top of your screen should be at your eye level. If you can’t raise the screen high enough, just prop it up on a few books or magazines. It’ll help you banish that turtle neck!
As you can imagine, things get a whole lot more complicated when it comes to laptops. But you can still apply a lot of the principles outlined in this article and I will come back to the laptop issue another time. Soon.
GET INTO A HEALTHY ROUTINE
Ideally, stand up and walk around a bit at least once every hour. I know, it’s so easy to forget when you get wrapped up in the task at hand... but there are a few things you can do:
♥ Set an hourly alarm and don’t just ignore it when it goes off!
♥ If you work in an office, chances are that your printer is miles away from your desk: print as you go rather then in batches, pick up from the printer immediately.
♥ Even better: drink lots of water... you’ll have to visit the loo so much more often! Win win.
YOGA MOVES TO SPRINKLE THROUGH THE DAY
THE CHEST OPENER.
Interlace your fingers behind your back. Inhale, lift your chest up towards the ceiling and stretch your hands back away from your body. Keep your shoulder blades wide. Breathe deeply into both the front and back of your lungs. Stay here for three breaths. Change the cross of your fingers and repeat. Sprinkle through your day liberally!
Sit up with your feet flat on the ground. Place your left hand on your right knee and hook your right arm over the backrest of your chair. Inhale, lengthen up and, as you exhale, open your upper body out to the side and look over your right shoulder. Keep your shoulders down from your ears and wide. Move your left hip back to square your pelvis. Inhale, come back to the centre and repeat on the other side.
SEATED + DESK SUPPORTED DOWNWARD FACING DOG.
Sit with your feet flat on the ground and hip-width apart. Place your hands on the edge of your desk and tilt your pelvis forward. Move your chair back as far as you can without moving your hands off the desk. Press your palms onto the desktop, move your shoulders away from your ears and widen them across. Flatten the shoulder blades down your back. Breathe in and lift your armpits, pull in your front ribs and your belly. Breathe out and soften through your upper back. Stay for 3 - 5 breaths.
SEATED FORWARD BEND.
Sit on the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the ground and hip-width apart. Tilt you pelvis forward. Inhale your chest up and, as you exhale, fold your chest down on your thighs. Make sure there is no discomfort in your lower back. Release your arms down and let your head dangle. Breathe deeply into the back of your body. Exhale through your mouth, letting go of any tension from your spine and your neck. Stay for 3 - 5 breaths.
Bring your chin down to your chest, keep your shoulders down and wide. Inhale and roll your head over to your right shoulder. Exhale and roll it back down. Inhale and roll your head over to your left shoulder. Exhale and roll it back down. Etc. Breathe deeply into any tight spots along the way. A few rolls left and right will do your neck a world of good!
Place your hands on your shoulders, fingers forward and thumbs back. Roll your shoulders forward three times and backwards three times.
Stretch your arms out in front of you and turn your wrists three times in each direction. Yep, that’s all it takes!